25 Children’s Books Featuring Characters of Color

Aveena mathew and family

What books do your kids love? Anton adores the Pacy Lin novels: The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, and Dumpling Days. Last month, we read the excellent The History of Juneteenth by historian Arlisha Norwood Alston, Ph.D. My boys also just tore through Colin Kaepernick’s YA graphic memoir Change the Game — I read it with them, since there were many nuanced moments about micro-aggressions and identity that led to longer bedtime discussions. Here, 11 more parents share their go-to books (and please add yours!)…

Babies/toddlers:

“Our two-year-old spotted Téo’s Tutu by Maryann Jacob Macias at the library recently and has requested it every day since. In the book, Téo dances bhangra and cumbia at home with his parents and is nervous for the first ballet class as a gender creative kid. We love how so many of the characters are BIPOC and look like our daughter.” — Aveena Mathew, pictured above with her family

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

Last Stop on Market Street isn’t just a hit in our house because my son Otis considers the bus to be a celebrity. Christian Robinson draws vibrant illustrations (we also like The Bench, Milo Imagines the World, and You Matter) and Matt de la Peña writes about seeing beauty and joy in the small things around us. I feel like that speaks to what it’s like to be a kid — they’re capable of finding awe in everything.” — Chloe Hall (and here’s her beauty uniform)

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

“I grew up with my mom telling us Indigenous stories at bedtime; and it’s wonderful to find the same cultural stories now in the form of children’s books, like I Sang You Down From the Stars by Tasha Spillet-Sumner. We also love Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard.” — Stephanie Vainer

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

“I first fell in love with Mexican-American superstar Selena Quintanilla Pérez when I saw the movie Selena as a young kid. We listened to her music at family parties, and I even dressed up as her for Halloween. Years later, as soon as my family and friends found out I was pregnant with a girl, I was given multiple copies of the bilingual Selena board book. Now, when I cozy up with two-year-old Ella, my eyes tear up when we read about this talented woman whom millions of other Mexican-Americans looked up to, as well. It’s also the actual cutest hearing my daughter learn new phrases in Spanish.” — Jannelle Sanchez, Cup of Jo’s associate editor

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

“I grew up in Guyana, where the Festival of Colors was one of my favorite holidays. We still enjoy the festivities with our multicultural family and neighbors (the desserts are the best!), so a book I chose for my daughter Felicity’s nursery is Festival of Colors by mother-son team Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal. Another picture book is Under the Mango Tree, because I spent most of my childhood either under or in a mango tree — a classic West Indian kid hangout spot.” — Naudia Jones Bell, aka the Guyanese Dietician

Ages 4-8

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

“Illustrator Baljinder Kaur’s depictions of our South Asian elders in the book Fauja Singh Keeps Going (written by Simran Jeet Singh) fills my heart with pride and offers me comfort when I miss my grandparents. Fauja was unable to walk as a child, but grew up to be the oldest person to ever run a marathon. His story teaches us how to be strong not only in body but also in spirit.” — Sukhie Patel

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

“Jillian Tamaki’s picture book, They Say Blue, is one of my kid’s favorites, not only because it’s moody and meandering, but also because we keep finding new things to talk about as he gets older. First it was the colors (orange egg yolks!); then it was the young girl’s imagination and how real pretending can feel. Lately, he’s been noticing how the seasons in the book aren’t the same as the seasons he experiences in L.A. I appreciate how this book treats my kid’s capacity for wonder and sentimentality with so much respect. I’m also a huge fan of Tamaki’s books for young adults — especially the stunning graphic novel This One Summer, which has become one of my favorite ‘banned books.’” — Connie Wang, author of Oh My Mother!: A Memoir in Nine Adventures

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

“In A Different Pond by Bao Phi (illustrated by Thi Bui), young Bao and his father wake before the rest of the family to fish near their Minnesota home. As they stand together in the morning light, Bao’s father recounts his memories of a similar pond in Vietnam many years ago. The Caldecott Award-winning picture book is a moving story of an immigrant family’s experience.” — Thao Thai, author of the new novel Banyan Moon

Ages 8-12

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

“My sister-in-law wrote The Adventures of Laila and Ahmed in Syria. It gives a glimpse into the rich culture and history of Syria through the lens of its modern conflicts. Our kids were into learning about it.” — Kavi Ahuja Moltz

“A book we love by Indigenous authors is I Am Not a Number about residential schools; the character reminds me a lot of my grandfather.” — Stephanie Vainer

Ages 12-18

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

“My kids are 11 and 14, but they still love big and small books! A young adult book they like is Miles Morales Suspended: A Spider-Man Novel. We’ve seen the movie twice, and they’re completely obsessed with the character. They also like Like Lava in My Veins, a graphic picture book about a boy with superpowers. And I can’t wait to get my hands on Cape, a powerful new book about coping with grief, written by Kevin Johnson and illustrated by Kitt Thomas.” — Bunnie Hilliard, founder of Brave + Kind Bookshop

25 Children's Books Featuring Characters of Color

“I love books that understand how deeply preteens feel everything, books that are willing to look at the hardest parts of being human. It’s like having company in a room in which you thought you’d be alone forever. Emily X.R. Pan’s The Astonishing Color of After takes on so many themes — loss, grief, love, hope — but with such tremendous compassion that she feels like a friend.” — Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk

What kids’ books are you reading these days? What books reflect your culture or family core values?

P.S. Six children’s books with Black characters, and my kids are delighted by this cookbook.

(Opening photo of Aveena Mathew and her family by Carley Azorit. Other photos courtesy of each parent.)

Related Posts

The Accent Color This Spring

The Accent Color This Spring

Last year, cherry red kept popping up in outfits — cherry red socks, cherry red sweaters, cherry red lipsticks. This spring? Baby blue is the accent color of…

The Funniest, Simplest Game to Play Before Dinner

The Funniest, Simplest Game to Play Before Dinner

The boys are off school for winter break this week, so we’ve been spending a LOT of time together. Even during regular weeks, I have them 75%…

Life and Beth

Life & Beth Is a Great Show About a Midlife Crisis

What are you watching these days? Since the writers’ strike, I’ve found it harder to hunt down great series, but this week I’ve been loving… Season 2…

The Hot Chocolate That Knocks Everyone's Socks Off

The Hot Chocolate That Knocks Everyone’s Socks Off

Remember three years ago? That first gnarly pandemic winter, when we’d all been scared and inside for so long that we’d burned through all our coping mechanisms?…

Week of Outfits: Jeanelle Teves

A Week of Outfits: Jeanelle Teves

Every morning, Jeanelle Teves’s six-year-old daughter watches her get dressed for work and then goes to pick out her own outfit. “When my daughter shows me what…

I Kept Wondering: Do I Drink Too Much?

I Kept Wondering: Do I Drink Too Much?

A chicken recipe calls for a half cup of red wine, but you never have leftover wine for cooking with because why on earth wouldn’t you just…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *